We are well on our way to the top of the TROY podium, but we still have a few more athletes to gush about before we get there. The two standouts we get to celebrate today had big career making performances in 2023. Both of these athletes took big swings to make their dreams a reality and now we get to give them all the kudos for a job well done. If you missed yesterday’s fifth place annoucement you can find that here.
We have been watching Toni McCann’s ascent to the top of the sport over the last three seasons – a steady build from South African standout to global name. While from the outside things seemed to go really smoothly for Toni this season, notching four wins in four races, you wouldn’t know that it was a year with plenty of adverstiy. Step one – move halfway across the globe to establish a homebase outside of the Chamonix valley in France and all the unknown over the past year of securring a visa to make it happen. Step two – break your collarbone in June with the startline of OCC looming over you. Step three – calmly (but ferociously) ride a trainer inside said French homebase. Step four – win the darn thing. Simple right?
Toni’s season kicked off on a hot day at the Transvulcania 48km where she ran, won, and securred her position for OCC in late August. Then she was supposed to join the South African team at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in June in Austria but a niggle kept her off the startline. Instead she turned her effort into supporting her teammates out on the course – it all went well until she was mountain biking back down the course and took a fall. Collarbone broken, again (we’ve all voted Toni stays away from the bike for a bit). Not to be sidelined, Toni did what she could, putting in many hours and countless buckets of sweat on a bike trainer. Keeping the season’s dream alive. On her way to OCC, with a month to go, Toni jumped into the Davos X-Trails 43km race winning and setting a course record in the process. Confidence boost – check! From there it was all systems go for OCC, the biggest 50km stage in the trail world year to year, and Toni was ready to improve on her fifth place finish from 2022. Racing strong from the start it was her day, her win, finally the OCC Champion. She could have called her season there, kicked up her feet for some quality R&R, but she had one more startline to get to, at home in Cape Town. Cementing her 2023 as an outstanding season Toni won and set a massive course record in the 55km race at Ultra-Trail Cape Town, celebrated for the hometown hero she is.
While Tom Evans’ 2023 season came with more than a few big wins, ending his season with a DNF, we know taking some unfinished business with him into 2024. With his third place finish at UTMB in 2022 Tom secured a golden ticket into the 2023 Western States 100-mile (WSER) easily making it the focus of his season. This wouldn’t be his frist rodeo at WSER having finished third in his debut 100-mile at the event back in 2019. But one of the things we admire about Tom is his approach to training, racing, and the professional side of the sport – it’s his job and he makes decisisons over and over again that highlight that. We love watching a good plan being executed.
To start off his block to WSER Tom made a trip state side to race the Black Canyon 100km. With its net downhill course and a strong field of runners Black Canyon is a great early season race for the WSER bound. Add in the benefit of not needing a golden ticket at the event and Tom had the full freedom to run how he felt with nothing to lose. Ultimately he would finish second after an incredible battle with Anthony Costales, running the second fastest time ever on the course. From there Tom returned home to the UK to train and jump into the Ultra-Trail Snowdonia 50km running and setting a course record in the process. Then it was back on the WSER grind, flying to the US to live and train with teammates Abby and Cordis Hall from their home in Flagstaff, Arizona. WSER race day dawned and we witnessed an amazing two man battle between Tom and Dakota Jones, flying through aidstations until one of them finally started to come apart. With 20 miles to go it was Tom alone at the front. If you’ve never been to the finish line of WSER at Placer High School we encourage you to add it to your bucket list – because watching Tom round the final bend around the track was one of our highlights of the year. 14:40 on the clock, a twenty minute personal record, and the 4th fastest time in race history.
Adidas Terrex – you’ve done good kids. Getting to see Toni and Tom excel at some of the biggest events of the year was a treat for all of us watching from the sidelines. We know they are both hungry for new challenges and we can’t wait to cheer them on as they tackle whatever comes next in 2024.
Trail Runner of The Year 2023 is brought to you with support from our friends over at Ketone IQ